Friday, May 29, 2020

Everest | 67th Anniversary of the First Ascent May 29th 1953

Hillary and Tenzing about to leave the South Col to establish Camp IX on the south east ridge - May 28th 1953 - Photo By Alf Gregory / Copyright Royal Geographical Society
Today is sixty seven  years since the first ascent of Everest. And due to the cornavirus global pandemic there will be no ascents of the mountain from the Nepal side in 2020. As I write this post news has just come in that a Chinese team have climbed Everest from the Tibet side. 

On 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am, a Sherpa and a New Zealander became the first men to stand on top of the highest peak on this planet.  However the intervening years has seen a sea change as far as Everest is concerned. The mountain   has now become a playground for guided expeditions, with clients paying between thirty thousand  to  eighty thousand dollars or more to stand on the highest point on earth. The South Col route climbed in 1953 is now disdainfully referred to as the “yak trail”. The dangerous icefall below the Western Cwm is maintained by a team of sherpas right through the season led by a senior “Icefall Doctor.” 

In order to make it possible for the clients to summit Everest, the entire mountain has fixed rope from bottom to top and the first to summit each year is a Sherpa team. 

Kami Rita Sherpa created a new record in 2019 by summiting Everest 24  times - week he has summitted Everest twice in the 2019 season -  the most by any climber breaking his own record of 22 summits. I wonder if anyone will break Kami's record - maybe Kami himself  in 2021. 

 However, this post recounts through photographs,  the 1953 climb, the historic ascent of the first two men to summit Everest and the team of climbers and sherpas who supported them through this endeavour.

Bourdillon and Evans on their return from the South Summit on May 26th 1953 - Bourdillon had wanted to make a push for the summit

Nawang Gombu crossing the icefall ladders - Gombu later became the first man to climb Everest twice in 1963 and 1965
The five men who helped  Hillary and Tenzing to carry to Camp 9  27,800 feet - John Hunt, Da Namgyal, Alf Gregory, Any Nyima and George Lowe - Photo George Lowe Collection
The map of the Khumbu icefall and the route followed by the 1953 expedition

From left: John Hunt, Ed Hillary, Tenzing, Ang Nyima,  Alfred Gregory and George Lowe after the ascent

The code which was later used in the telegram to send the news before the Queen's coronation

The telegram sent by John Hunt after the ascent

Hunt, Hillary and Tenzing in London

The full expedition team with the sherpas
Tenzing and his mother Kinzom at Tengboche monastery 1953
Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the successful climb
Sketch map drawn by Tenzing for his biographer James Ramsay Ullman 

The signed colour supplement of The Times

All photographs in this post are copyright the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY and the respective owners. This post is non-commercial.  

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